Packers might have to win in the trenches

GREEN BAY, Wis. – In the wake of all the injuries the Green Bay Packers have sustained already this season, there has been one constant.

Well, two actually.

The offensive and defensive lines have been rock-solid.

Perhaps now more than ever, with another skill-position player – tight end Jermichael Finley – facing a potentially serious injury, the Packers will need their men in the trenches to carry them.

“I think the culture of this team a little bit has changed with the offensive line and defensive line play,” Packers left guard Josh Sitton said on Monday. “We’ve been playing pretty well, so we know that the onus is more on us more than ever right now, and we take pride in that.

“The defensive line has a done a great job of taking over the defense. We have one of the best defensive lines in the game, definitely one of the deepest. It’s something that we definitely have talked about. We talk about it as a line, and we take pride in going out there and being able to win games in a different fashion than we have before.”

That could mean the days of 400-yard passing games and 100-yard receivers might be on hold -- at least until the Packers can figure out whether Finley, who sustained a “significant” neck injury in Sunday’s 31-13 win over the Cleveland Browns, and receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb will be back together again this season.

Finley, who remained hospitalized on Monday, faces a potentially long recovery. Cobb, who fractured the fibula in his right leg against the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 13, can’t return before Dec. 15 because he’s on the temporary injured reserve list. And Jones, who sustained a left-knee sprain against the Ravens, was originally diagnosed to miss two to three weeks, coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday, but could possibly play Sunday night at the Minnesota Vikings.

It’s an opportunity for the Packers, who have been trying to shed the finesse label that has followed them for several years.

“Our big guys are where it starts,” McCarthy said. “We talked about it earlier. We talked about it Saturday night in the team meeting. We’re going to lean on our big dogs. That will definitely be part of our focus as we go forward.”

Both lines have been impervious to injuries so far. The Packers have started the same five offensive linemen in the first six games of the season.

And while injuries have hit the glamour position – outside linebacker – in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense, the workmanlike defensive line has remained intact.

In some ways, the shift had already begun even before the rash of injuries.

The Packers’ commitment to running the ball better and stopping the run has come to fruition. Through Sunday’s games, they ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing offense (134.7 yards per game) and third in rushing defense (79.0 yards allowed per game). They have not finished in the top 10 in both categories in the same season since 2003, when they ranked third in rushing and 10th in run defense.

“The D-line has got some great leaders over there,” right tackle Don Barclay said. “We’re trying to put it on our back and get the job done up front.”